Sentiment and Sexuality in Eighteenth-Century British Literature
Making Love revises current understandings of the history of sexuality from the vantage point of the literary history of sentimentalism. Kelleher demonstrates how eighteenth-century British writers fundamentally reconceived the relations among sentiment, sexuality, and morality. Sentimentalism posited heterosexual desire as the precondition of moral feeling and conduct. Further, sentimental writers fashioned the ideal of conjugal love as an ideological antidote to the theories of self-interest promulgated by Hobbes and Mandeville. Heterosexual desire and its culmination in conjugal love and parental affection were represented as the privileged means for an individual to transcend self-interest and to develop a moral sensibility attuned to the thoughts and feelings of others. At the same time, Kelleher argues, same-sex desire was increasingly depicted as antithetical to conjugal love. Making Love closely examines works by Shaftesbury, Addison, Steele, Haywood, Richardson, and Fielding in order to reveal how these authors collectively reinforced an overarching sentimental ideology: conjugal love becomes synonymous with sympathy, benevolence, and moral goodness, while same-sex desire desire is pathologized as a selfish withdrawal from sociability and even "humanity" itself.
"Paul Kelleher's Making Love represents the deep and rich research of a topic that has been overlooked in much of the rage of interest in sexuality studies in the period. His study of the idealization of conjugal love in the early decades of the eighteenth century is nothing less than miraculous in the connections it makes and the arguments it articulates. Not only deeply learned on the topic of eighteenth-century philosophy, Kelleher also employs modern theorists like Michel Foucault and Jürgen Habermas, in order to place his argument in conversation with other historians of sexuality. The result is a deeply informed engagement with everyone who has written compellingly about these topics. This study takes its place among the very best books in this field."
- George E. Haggerty, University of California, Riverside
"Locating sexuality within a broad matrix of discursive fields, and tracing the underpinnings of a new conjugality to the discourses of sympathy and sociability, Kelleher shows how marriage became, in the eighteenth century and especially for men, the foundation for the public good. Making Love offers a powerful, shapeshifting companion to classic studies of domesticity, gender, and sensibility."
- Susan S. Lanser, Brandeis University
About the author:
Paul Kelleher is assistant professor of English at Emory University. He has published several articles in the fields of eighteenth-century studies, queer studies, and disability studies, in journals such as The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, Novel: A Forum on Fiction, and Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, as well as in the edited volumes Regarding Sedgewick: Essays on Queer Culture and Critical Theory (20020 and The Idea of Disability in the Eighteenth-Century (2014).
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